[Note: Statins are cholesterol-lowering prescription drugs]
Chinese red yeast rice is a dietary supplement containing monacolins, unsaturated fatty acids, and phytosterols capable of lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Few studies have reported on its use in clinical practice or in statin-intolerant patients.
We reviewed approximately 1,400 clinical charts and identified 25 patients treated with red yeast rice for 4 weeks or more. The patients were included if they had pre- and post-treatment lipid levels without simultaneous changes in other lipid-lowering medications. These patients had experienced myalgias [muscle pains] (68%), gastrointestinal intolerance (16%), and/or elevated alanine aminotransferase levels [a measure to detect liver injury] (8%) with previous use of other lipid-lowering agents.
The total cholesterol decreased 15% (-37 +/- 26 mg/dl, p <0.001) and LDL cholesterol decreased 21% (-35 +/- 25 mg/dl, p <0.001) during 74 +/- 39 days of treatment.
Most (92%) patients tolerated the treatment, and many (56%) achieved their LDL cholesterol goal.
In patients unable to tolerate daily statin use, the total cholesterol level decreased 13% (-33 +/- 10 mg/dl, p <0.001) and LDL cholesterol decreased 19% (-31 +/- 4 mg/dl, p <0.001).
In conclusion, red yeast rice modestly decreased total and LDL cholesterol, was well-tolerated, and was an acceptable alternative in patients intolerant of other lipid-lowering medications.
Source: American Journal of Cardiology, Mar 1, 2010;105(5):664-6. PMID: 20185013, by Venero CV, Venero JV, Wortham DC, Thompson PD. University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.